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"I always thought passion was like a clenched fist. But when I relaxed, it flowed in a fuller way."

-- Bono

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Like a Song: Hawkmoon 269

@U2, October 18, 2008
By: John Tuohy


[Ed. note: This is the 26th in a series of personal essays by the @U2 staff about songs and/or albums that have had great meaning or impact in our lives.]

Like A Song

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards" -Kierkegaard

They say that hindsight is 20/20. Well, whoever they are, I think they're right. Music can often remind us of this little theory. One day a song can just be a cool tune that rocks. And then on another day the same song can actually make the past, the present, or even the future so much more in focus than it ever was before. This is one of the great things about music, isn't it? Or maybe it's the difficult part about it, as well. Or at least it seems to be at times, anyway.

Almost 10 years after hearing a song for the first time, it hit me in a way that it never did before. And this is the great thing about U2's music. There are other U2 songs that have done this to me before, but this time it was different because it actually brought some closure and healing to me. I'm talking about the fourth track on Rattle and Hum. This song helped me to look back and see things a bit more in focus. And with this newfound clarity, I was able to make a little more sense about what lay ahead of me. And also how God, family, and even love played such huge roles during this time. Nothing too serious...ya know? ;-)

I'll admit, not a huge percentage of U2 fans love this song. And I'd bet a lot of newer fans have never even heard it. I'm of course talking about "Hawkmoon 269," but most of you probably knew that by now. Anyone remember the first time hearing this song? I just remember thinking that it was the coolest sounding song I'd ever heard. And like just about everyone else, I had absolutely no clue what the song was even about. Didn't care either, it was just cool! Who knew Bono could sing that low? And even sound good at it, too. Hearing those first few lines crackle out of his throat made me want a scotch and cigarette...and I don't even smoke....

Like a desert needs rain Like a town needs a name I need your love Like a drifter needs a room Hawkmoon I need your love

Then there's the Edge. You could say that he's got his feedback and distortion in full effect. Now enter Adam, then Larry, who evidently is drumming for the Almighty himself.

So these were my first impressions of this obscure little track back in 1988, and these impressions still hold true today. I've found that this song has recently hit me in a way that I never would have expected. So let me go back a bit and share with you why I, Hawkmoon2e, has chosen the somewhat obscure "Hawkmoon 269" for my Like a Song Essay.

I would say that my younger years were pretty normal. You know, Little League, Pop Warner football, Happy Days, and blowing things up with firecrackers. I'm the youngest of five. My parents are both children of Irish descendants, so naturally, they were Irish Catholic. I'm pretty sure they're still Irish these days, but for sure not Catholic, especially after their divorce. In fact, divorce was so good, they did it twice! The first divorce happened when I was only seven years old. Right after their first divorce, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I just remember wanting to be a normal kid in a normal family again, one that still did stuff together, especially at the holidays. And speaking of holidays...the candy! I thought the divorce was hard. It wasn't half as hard as not being able to eat candy anymore! But that's enough of this poor-me sob story. Eventually, I got over it. Well, sort of. I mean, we can still call ourselves a family, right? There are certainly families out there that have gone through worse. So my family was a little bit broken; big deal. We can still love each other, right? That is, if I can figure out what exactly love is. I mean, didn't my parents say they loved each other?...

Like a rhythm unbroken Like drums in the night Like sweet soul music Like sunlight I need your love

...Or did I just need it back?

After my parents remarried each other some five or six years later, all was normal in the Tuohy household again. Normal? But once again, a few years later, the $h!t really hit the fan, so to speak, anyway. This time though, I was an adult that could handle it all for sure. I wasn't going to worry too much about having a so-called normal family anymore. Or even about what was going to happen on holidays. I was going to take care of number one. Me. And that's it! But I found myself at the age of 22, completely pissed off at the world, and more specifically, my family and God. And not necessarily in that order, either.

I won't go into the gory details about this second divorce, but let's just say that we all found out some pretty awful things about my dad, and that's putting it lightly. So growing up in a church-going, God-fearing family suddenly meant absolutely nothing to me. I became very cynical of God and his church. And love? What the hell did that even mean anymore?...

Like coming home and you don't know where you've been Like black coffee Like nicotine I need your love

...Or did I?

Anger is something that we've all experienced in life, one way or another. Anger is certainly not a bad thing, but how we deal with it certainly can be. That's where it got really cloudy for me, because I was trying to justify my anger, but in doing that I was also trying to justify my actions as well. Alcohol became one of my best friends, too. Well, I thought so anyway. "Jack" and "Jim" were always there, but it never ended well with those two....

When the night has no end And the day yet to begin As the room spins around I need your love

...Or just another drink.

From 1990 to 1996, I was on a real collision course with life. Or more likely, with death. I just didn't care anymore. I totaled two trucks that I owned. One of the accidents involved an angry me, a four-wheel-drive Chevy, a 100-foot steep embankment, and lots of alcohol. After I woke up the next morning in a ditch, my first thought was, "Oh well, I guess I need a new truck." I really didn't care. Or more likely, I was trying to show the world that I didn't care. So instead of continuing down the road of total destruction, I at least made a few changes. It wasn't a lot, but it was a start. I really didn't want my parents earlier threat in life to come true. You know the one when they say "You could be dead in a ditch somewhere!" And that threat always came when you were just a few minutes late coming home. Little did my parents know that I was already half way there...I just wasn't dead in the ditch yet. So I stopped with the partying/driving/crashing.

I did have a good job, some fun toys, and a great place to live. But something was still missing. Sure my Dad was not a part of my life anymore, and that created an emptiness But there was still a hole that not even the best Dad in the world could fill....

Lookin' for to fill that God shaped hole

Sorry, that's for another song in another essay. I just felt that something else really needed to change in my life. Almost like I was running out of time, or something. I even felt a little desperate....

Like a Phoenix rising needs a holy tree Like the sweet revenge of a bitter enemy I need your love I need your love

Like the heat needs the sun Like honey on her tongue Like the muzzle of a gun Like oxygen I need your love

Oh man, how I needed it! But what exactly did I need? And did I need it, or just want it? If it's love, then no thanks I'll find something else. But whose love though? Girlfriends would come and go, so that's probably not it. Maybe I just need someone to blame for all of it because it sure as hell isn't going to be me....

Like thunder needs rain Like the preacher needs pain Like tongues of flame Like a sweet stain Like a needle needs a vein Like someone to blame Like a thought unchained Like a runaway train I need your love

In July of 1996, right before my 28th birthday, it all drastically changed for me. That's when the lights went out, literally. Due to some nasty side effects from the diabetes, I went totally blind in less than six months. I had to quit my job as an journeyman electrician, sell my new Chevy truck and dirt bike -- at least I didn't roll this truck -- and I also had to move back in with mom for a while. Sometimes you don't know who you are until you strip all of that other stuff away. What I found was a guy that just wanted to be loved, and know how to love. Not too much to ask, right? But I still didn't know how.

During the six months leading up to the total vision loss, I found myself trying to bargain with God. Praying like a madman. Telling God what I needed, and what I wanted. Not asking, but telling. And during all of that, I was in and out of so many surgeries that I lost count. So besides not being able to really see anything, it felt like my eyeballs were thrown into a blender, covered with salt, then pushed back into my sockets with some stitches and duct tape. But when almost all of the surgical options were exhausted, I remember the doc asking me if I wanted to try one last procedure that could help some sight return to one of my eyes. It involved a large syringe, some sort of gas bubble, and the hope that it would push my retina up against the part of the eye that it needed to adhere to. Oh, and by the way, I would have had to lie face down for 50 minutes of each hour, for three days. So naturally, I told him "No thanks. I'm done."

What happened after that, though, completely amazed me. Over the next few days, the reality of never seeing again started to sink in. But I wasn't freaking out. I wasn't even mad! If you remember earlier in my story, anger was a big part of my life. Now it was gone. I mean gone! It's not that I never get angry anymore, but when I lost my sight, my anger had lost its strength over me. It didn't control me anymore, and it certainly wasn't a big part of my character anymore, either....

Heat of love in the heart of it

I like to think of myself as a strong guy. You know, the type that can handle just about any situation that comes my way. Well, let me tell you, this peace was not from me. In fact, it was so foreign to me that it actually felt a bit strange. During the six months when I all of a sudden became this prayer warrior, I was praying that God would heal and restore my eyesight. I really wanted that. In fact, I'm not going to lie to you, I still want it! But God had other things in mind for me. You see, instead of healing my eyes, he did me one better...he healed my heart. And it just doesn't get much better than that!....

Heat of love in the heart of it

I'm not some Prozac poster boy that can't wipe the smile from my face. The kind that always thinks that life is so wonderful, no matter what. No, that ain't me. Living as a blind person is not easy, and I certainly don't recommend it. But God really met me where I was at in 1996. He flooded me with peace that could not have come from anywhere else. I'll take a life at peace with blindness over a life full of anger and destruction with eyesight intact, any day of the week.

And so as you can probably imagine, I really learned what love is. For God to reach down and grab me in the depths of this misery of darkness to reassure me that everything is going to be cool.

One of the things that went through my head when I was losing my eyesight was the fact that I'd probably never get married, and for sure never have any kids. Well, I'm happy to say that in 2003, I got married to an awesome girl, and in 2004, we were blessed with an amazing son. And holy crap -- he's just like me!!! So you know for sure that my hands are going to be full for the next...well, many years....

Heat of love in the heart of it Heat of love in the heart of it

There's a great quote by one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, and it goes:

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

No, I don't have any God-given superhero powers, or anything like that. But to me, I can pretty much sum up my story with a simple statement....

I just had to go blind so that I could see. And then I learned to love.

Heat of love...

© @U2/Tuohy, 2008.

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